I have written before on this subject of the sensitive nature of two of my boys, and I must admit, I think about it constantly. While reading one of my favorite momma bloggers today, this post struck me head on. She's a far better writer than I am, but so much of what she says resonates with my experience parenting the twins, most especially C. I ended up commenting on her post, but then wrote Emily at Wheels on the Bus a private email. I've decided to make that not-so-private by sharing some of it here:
I cannot help but see the similarities between Zach & C. C's twin, S, is also academically ahead of his peers (great at reading/Sudoku/etc) but he is less intense & more comfortable socially than his brother so I worry less about him on this front. C's the type of kid who devours books, remembers everything he reads, loves to share facts, is excited by multiplication, & has an incredibly strong sense of what is exactly right & how things should be just so. He also falls apart when things don't go his way, when he gets frustrated, when people don't comply with his wishes, etc. He cries easily & frequently, & he has a hard time letting anything go. I don't walk around talking how gifted he is or how early he was reading, etc. because I know this doesn't go over well with folks, but I am struggling on how to get guidance on parenting him because with these gifts come a host of issues. He has very few coping skills outside of crying & has now started muttering when he is especially upset, "It is a very bad day, a very bad day" which is heartbreaking beyond belief.
I worry tremendously about his 'likability factor' even though my husband keeps explaining to me that we can't make C likable. I worry that he will be that weird smart kid in the class, that he'll piss people off by correcting them frequently, that peers will label him a 'cry baby.' I am having a hard time finding the line between trying to smooth the way for him all the time & recognizing that I can't smooth it all away, that some of his frustration is necessary, that if he doesn't' experience some of these painful things, he will never learn the necessary coping skills. But just where is that line?
Take, for instance, our newest challenge. Our city has a wonderful preK/K soccer program. In the fall, the boys were not interested in participating & that was just fine for P & me. This spring, they said they wanted to play so we signed them up-- our first foray into sports (outside a 'get your ya-yas out' gymnastics class last year in Maine). The program is all about having a good time with soccer & skill-building with these two lovely British coaches at the helm. They do not play on teams; they play fun, skill-building games, & the practices occur at different public parks so you can just go whenever you like, no pressure. Both boys were delighted with the first practices-- so excited & happy & bouncing along.
After a few times, C started to show some cracks. He declared he wasn't very good at dribbling the ball, sometimes it was kicked away from him during the games (the point of some of the games), etc. & tears started to fall. Then came the four on four "fun" games-- where the kids played a sort-of, actual game. This was the undoing for C. Even though the coaches didn't keep score, C kept score. Even though all the kids are running around bumping into each other, C was sure everyone was intentionally pushing him. He got extremely upset. Now, he has not wanted to go to soccer. I am not interested in forcing him to do something he does not want to do extracurricularly so we have been relatively easygoing about this. S loves soccer though, so S gets to keep playing, & since I am the only parent home at most soccer times, I must bring F & C with me to the fields. The first time C sat out, we brought him a chair & a book & he was content. But the book lost its power as the practice progressed & C then wanted to play in some of the skill-building games, but not the four-on-four.
This is when it gets tricky for me: Do I let him participate in what he likes, what is fun for him, but allow him to sit out when he doesn't like something? This is where my upbringing gets in the way of my parenting. I was from the 'you never quit anything' family, you do as you are told, you suck it up no matter what, etc. OK-- so he's five now & we are so not hyper-competitive about sports. I don't blame him for not wanting to participate in the games-games. But what happens at school when he has to do things he doesn't like, he can't sit them out (especially next year in public school). By allowing him to participate, but only in the things he enjoys at soccer, am I sending him a bad message? At what age do I draw the line: Well, if you want to play, you need to do it all, even the things you are not crazy about?
At the last practice, in which only S attended because P was home & could hang with the two other boys, I talked with the coach about C. He was quick to say that C should come to practice, play the starting games that he loves, & then when they are breaking the kids up into teams, he can just sit out over with me. I guess this is how we will approach this for now & see how it unfolds, but I feel unsettled about it all.